Human Rights for Workers – An Overview
Workers’ rights and human rights cannot be seen as two different entities; in fact they are closely and intricately linked with one another. However, while human rights cuts across sectors and is applicable to any living human on the planet, labour rights are related to working conditions and are additionally governed by specific labour laws that differ across countries. These are generally concerned about working conditions, safety factors and pay and allowances fixed through bi-lateral negotiations between the employer and the employee.
The Human Rights Act on the other hand is based on the European Convention on Human Rights and has clauses related to protection of workers’ rights. Initially, after this Act came into effect, it was mandatory for the Government or the public sector to follow the Act as laid down by the Convention. Workers in the private or non-organised sector could not make a claim if employers violated the set norms in the Human Rights Act. To set this anomaly right, human rights laws have now been incorporated in employment laws. This is applicable to all employers regardless of industry and sector.
Two examples of Human Rights at workplace will illustrate this point better. While an employer has the right to monitor an employee’s emails, internet access, telephone calls and any data on him/her, a worker too has the right to know as per the Convention details of all information being held about him/her through these emails or CCTV coverage. Again, an employer who discriminates against an employee on the basis of gender or sexuality (especially gay rights) is violating the principles of the Convention.
Grievance redress procedures are also very clear and lucid. If any employee feels that there has been a deviation from the clauses of contract and terms as per the appointment letter and that there has been a compromise with his/her human rights, the employer has to be informed accordingly. In case of no action from the employer in this regard, suitable legal action can be initiated. However, a legal expert should first be approached as the laws related to human and workers’ rights are rather complex in nature.